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Having less than others is painful: Income rank and pain around the world

Macchia, L. ORCID: 0000-0001-9558-4747 (2023). Having less than others is painful: Income rank and pain around the world. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 15(2), pp. 215-224. doi: 10.1177/19485506231167928


Physical pain is a pressing issue for scientists and policymakers. Yet evidence on the psychosocial factors of pain is limited. Using data from 146 countries (N = 1.3 million individuals), this article documents the role of income comparisons on physical pain. Specifically, this study shows that income rank (i.e., the ordinal position of a person’s income within a comparison group) is linked to physical pain above and beyond absolute income. This effect is identical in rich and poor nations. The negative emotions that result from a disadvantaged relative standing in the income hierarchy may explain these findings. This article documents a new kind of evidence on the power of income comparisons and highlights the role that psychosocial factors may play in physical pain.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Physical pain, income, income rank, income comparisons
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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